STRUGGLE BUS DRIVER: JORDAN
Relief in Validation
Welcome back reader! I hope that life has been treating you kindly. As far as things go for me I cannot complain, however, I do have something weighing on my thoughts and that is why I am here today.
Have you ever experienced a moment in your life where you tell a person something and they don't believe you? How did it make you feel? Did you let them kill your speculation or have you circled back to the thought time and time again? Why do we accept this type of rejection even at times when we wholeheartedly disagree with it?
One of these such moments in my life has been related to my health. For several years now, I have been using Fitbit devices to encourage my fitness by tracking my activity. Aside from encouraging physical activities, my Fitbit's have a lot of features which contribute to a whole scale approach to my health. One of the features that I really appreciate is that it tracks my heart rate.
As it turns out, the feature that I find most intriguing has caused some anxiety about whether or not I'm actually healthy. What my Fitbit has been recording is that my heart rate is continuously low. Whereas a normal resting heart rate for an adult falls in between 60-100 beats per minute, according to my Fitbit, my resting heart rate fluctuates between the high 40's to low 50's in beats per minute. As if that weren't concerning enough, through this tracking system, it's consistently recorded my heart rate to get as low as 35 beats per minute while sleeping. Of course, being the slight hypochondriac that I am, I Googled whether these figures are normal. Turns out, unless you're some type of super athlete and crazy healthy, these numbers could indicate a variety of conditions.
Despite considering myself a fairly athletic person, I am definitely not on some Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt type level where it would make sense for my body to produce these results. I brought this to the attention of my primary care doctor, and she is the first person to tell me, "Oh you're young, healthy, and active. It really isn't something I think you should be concerned with." Well, there it is folks, my first encounter of invalidation in regards to my heart. I felt slightly uneasy moving forward, but what am I going to do about it? A licensed physician with vastly more developed knowledge about these issues told me not to be worried.
I continue living life and I don't keel over dead so maybe my doctor was right? Maybe I'm just overthinking it or my Fitbit isn't tracking my heart correctly? Then I start to
notice other odd trends related to my heart rate and my body. For example, when I would engage in some type of cardio exercise, my heart rate wold increase to 180-190 beats per minute. Not only that, but everyone experiences lulls in day where you feel tired and struggle to focus right? Well I was no stranger to these, but I would notice that when feeling like this my heart rate would drop into the 50's. This is significant because when I felt awake and alert my heart rate would be in the 60's or 70's. Could my low heart rate be causing me to feel fatigued?
I went to see a different doctor and brought this new evidence to light and was provided with the same response. "Well I mean you're very active, young, and healthy. It isn't something I would be worried about." Disregarded for the second time, I again let it go. Now two doctors have told me not to worry despite my better judgement. I know I should trust them, but I also know my body and WebMD can be pretty convincing. Guess, I just need to live life.
While in college I had a job as a server/bartender. Anyone who has worked in that industry knows that some days are unforgiving, busy as hell, and just downright a bitch to deal with. I was having one of these such days when I started to feel a pain in my chest. I nonchalantly mentioned it to some of my coworkers and they become more concerned by it than I was. I was fairly certain it wasn't a big deal because I'd sometimes get small pains here and there when exercising, but it was relentless and eventually I had a really difficult time focusing on my job. Eventually I told my manager, but stated that I was still able to work. He switched me with another server so that I could get it checked out. Regardless I didn't get off the clock until around 8:00 or 9:00 at night. I had texted my parents while at work telling them about my situation and my mom offered to drive up to the town I worked in to go with me to the hospital. So I went home to my apartment to wait for her to arrive.
By the time I actually got to the hospital it was close to 11;00 PM and I just wanted to go to sleep. I'm not sure if you've ever gone to the ER, but if you ever go with a complaint of chest pain they have to hook you up to an EKG machine. An EKG tracks the electrical pulses of your heart by placing electrodes all over your body. I'm not sure how long you're supposed to be connected to one of these things, but I was left in the room with my mom for at least 45 minutes with the machine beeping every few seconds. Come to find after the staff come backs that the beeping was due to my heart rate being under 40 beats per minute. The nurses come in and ask if having a low heart rate and blood pressure is normal for me. I tell them that I've always measured low, but wasn't sure if that was normal. They stated that it wasn't normal, but if I always measured low then it probably wasn't anything to worry about. Despite having physical evidence of my abnormality,
I again get brushed off, but this time with an admittance that it isn't quite normal and that more testing should be administered. With the oddity that is my heart rate I get sent to receive a Holter monitor. This type of monitor is like the EKG in the sense that it records the rhythms of the heart through electrodes attached to the skin, but is meant to be worn for 2-3 days. I wear this odd contraption, unable to properly shower and wear certain clothing without it being noticeable and record all of my activities and turn the results in. I have hope at this point that something might be explained, but alas, nothing comes of it. Results don't display anything irregular and I again am sent into the abyss of normality in life without answers.
Days, weeks, months, and years go by before I consider going to the doctor again. During this time I have several conversations about this with people in my every day life all of which seem to find it odd, unnatural, and uncomfortably make a joke about whether or not I'm dying. Although I elect not to go to a doctor, I still find myself experiencing new and old symptoms. The familiarity of chest pain here and there, continue feeling fatigued at moments my heart rate is low become somewhat common in my routine while an awareness of a lightheaded or dizzy sensation when standing up occur from time to time.
Despite the constant urging from friends to get this checked out, I continue to push back against it because why would I put myself through all of that just to again be told that nothing is wrong with me? So what finally convinced me to go back to the doctor? Well reader I wish I could tell you it was because of some reborn faith in our medical system, but sadly that is not the case. A close friend of mine had a friend of hers unexpectedly pass away recently. She was 26 years-old and her death seemed to come out of nowhere and shocked everyone around her. Speaking to that friend recently I found out that the cause of her death was a heart condition she knew about, but didn't know the severity of how it could affect her. A 26 year-old...heart condition...unexpected death. I immediately thought of my family. I don't want them to have to go through something like that and I have too much I want to experience in life for me to die before I'm 30. So I did it. I went back to the doctor. I had extremely low expectations, but I didn't want to be the next tragic unexpected loss you heard about on the news.
Now this visit had a different tone to it from the beginning. The staff were super understanding, listened to all that I had to say, and didn't let my athletic appearance or young age impact their overall decision for how to handle my situation. They agreed that my heart rate was at a level that was uncommon for anyone outside of highly dedicated/competitive marathon runners. They made me feel at ease with my anxieties and gave me an action plan for moving forward. Despite still not having an official cause or diagnosis I was finally being heard. I was finally being validated. That was more important to me at the end of this visit than anything else. I finally found someone who believed me and was going to work with me to figure this thing out.
Seeing as this just happened within the past few days I don't have any results back, but I can tell you what the plan is. Yesterday morning I got some blood drawn to send off to the lab to see if my heart issues are an endocrine issue. I should be getting those results within the next couple of days. Not only that, I will be setting up an appointment with a cardiologist within the next two weeks. I know it isn't much to go off of, but after all the years of uncertainty it finally feels good to have a plan at all.
Reader, I don't know if you've ever had an opportunity like this where after years of being disregarded and brushed off, to finally having that moment of validation and belief is incredibly liberating. Unfortunately it took the death of another person to get me to this point, but I'm finally working towards a solution. I might finally have answers!
I wanted to write this post as an encouragement for you to do the same, especially when it comes to your health. You are the expert of your own body. You know what feels right and what feels wrong. I'm not encouraging actual hypochondria here and saying go to all the doctors in the world until they diagnose you with something, but go until you find that person that is willing to listen and do everything in their power to work with you. I hope that you can all have that type of validation in your life whether it be with health or any aspect of your life.
Thanks again for making it through another one reader. I'll try to keep you updated with the results. Hope you have a wonderful start to your week and remember to make someone smile today, :)
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A millennial with a need for an outlet. I write about whatever is inspiring me in the moment.